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Sunday, 5 November 2023 / 21 Cheshvan 5784

President Isaac Herzog today, Sunday, received the diplomatic credentials of incoming United States Ambassador to Israel, Jacob J. Lew.

Under the shadow of the ongoing war against Hamas, the ceremony at the President’s Residence was conducted without the traditional guard of honor and national anthems. The Ambassador presented his credentials, after which the two made statements to the media.

President Herzog:

“Ambassador Lew, it’s a true honor to welcome you here today and receive your credentials here in Jerusalem. Welcome. I know of your record of excellence over many decades of public service in the United States, and of your deep connection to Israel and to the Jewish people. I also want to thank Deputy Ambassador Hallett for serving as acting Ambassador for the last few months. A crisis is always when you’re reminded who your friends are. This is true of people, and it’s true of countries. I’m speaking for all Israelis when I say: never has American friendship been more evident or more valued than it is right now. We are grateful to President Joe Biden for his unwavering support of Israel and its people. We value the immense efforts and repeated visits by Secretary Blinken and high-level officials. We are grateful for everything that the USA has done for us and is doing as we speak. We will never forget it. I’d love to greet you at a time of peace. You deserve the full welcoming ceremony. But, unfortunately we both know that you arrive and begin your service here at a tipping point for Israel and the region, maybe for the world. On October 7, (the Jewish festival of) Simchat Torah, we were subject to a barbaric attack that changed this country forever.

Our army is now fighting in Gaza against a terror organization that uses its civilian population as a human shield and the source of its attacks, that conceals its forces in ambulances and hides its headquarters underneath a hospital. Yesterday, our forces were opening a humanitarian corridor to get Palestinian civilians to safety when they were attacked by Hamas. This organization, and the other Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, and elsewhere in the region, are the threat we face – but it’s also what America faces, and ultimately what the entire civilized world faces.

This war is about much more than Israel and Hamas. It’s about whether the world will accept the violation of our most basic values as human beings. We treasure the clarity we’ve heard from President Biden, who called the Hamas threat by its true name – evil. Evil is the accurate word for terrorists holding more than 240 people, including babies and the elderly, and including American citizens, without any news of their fate. This is an ongoing war crime, and anyone concerned with humanitarian aid must act to secure their immediate and unconditional release. As secretary Blinken heard on Friday, we are committed to humanitarian assistance wherever possible to the uninvolved civilian population of Gaza. But we know that the only way to stop the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians is to remove the threat of Hamas.

These trying times are a test for us all. But as you know, Israel is a country founded on hope. Our national anthem is called Hatikva, which means, “the hope.” Together, Ambassador Lew, we can defeat the forces of chaos and violence and make our hopes for the region a reality. May you go from strength to strength, and I wish you much success.”

Ambassador Lew:

“Mr. President, I'm honored to stand beside you today as I present my credentials as the United States Ambassador to the State of Israel, particularly at this moment of history. This is a difficult time. Representing the United States as Ambassador to the State of Israel is a profound honor. I arrived in Israel only days after being confirmed last week, arriving on Friday to join the Secretary of State for important consultations. These are not normal times and this is not a normal transition. In fact I am told it’s the shortest time from a vote in the Senate to arriving in country - reflecting the urgency in the moment. In that spirit, I appreciate you receiving me today.

I was raised with a deep appreciation of the importance of Israel, and I worked over my career in government to deepen the US-Israel relationship to meet critical immediate security needs, and also to build enduring approaches that span many years. Over many visits, I have developed a deep respect for the people and history of this country. I have many friends here as I arrive, and I look forward to building new relationships even during these hard early days. This past month has tested Israel and it has also proven that the bond between our nations is unshakable. As two great democracies, we share values that underlie how we make decisions. That explains why we remain so close.

I met this morning with families of hostages and there are no words to explain the pain they feel and we share. Working for the release of over 200 hostages, including Americans, will remain a top priority until their captivity comes to end. As President Biden has said so passionately, Israel has a right and indeed a responsibility to defend this nation and it’s people in a manner that reflects the values that we share. We remain committed to providing the support to be successful in that effort. Even during a time of crisis, we must remain focused on the long term strategic challenges that will shape a future of greater stability and security, with better opportunities for all people of goodwill, regardless of religion. There's much to do, but we'll do it together. And is in that unity of purpose that I find hope for a brighter future. What took place on October 7 is a stain on humanity. It cannot happen. And so I want to reiterate what President Biden and Secretary Blinken have said countless times since that very dark day: the United States stands with you. We will work together. Our resolve will remain strong. Thank you for this honor, and I look forward to working with the Government and people of Israel.”

Photo credits: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)